Tuesday, October 7, 2014


 (Vatican Radio) At the daily press briefing in the Vatican on Tuesday, journalists heard how bishops meeting on the second full day of the Synod for the Family have been discussing the importance of using more inclusive language to talk about people living outside the teachings of the Church. They’ve also been stressing the need for a ‘gradual’ or ‘stepping stones’ approach to couples, and the recognition that elements of truth also exist in those relationships which do not conform to the Church’s ideal vision of family life.

Philippa Hitchen reports…


The head of the Holy See press office Fr Federico Lombardi and his assistants spoke of the many different subjects under discussion on the first two days of the Synod, in particular the need for a more sensitive and inclusive language about family life that will not turn people away from the Church. Canadian Fr Tom Rosica gave some specific examples from the English speaking bishops present at the meeting:

“Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

Synod participants have also been underlining the need to apply the so-called ‘law of graduality’ or ‘stepping stones approach’ as they minister to people living in all kinds of relationships that do not conform to the Church’s ideal of marriage and family life.

 Fr Lombardi used an analogy from the Second Vatican Council which led to profound changes in the Catholic Church’s relations with other Christians and people of other religious traditions. During the Council, bishops agreed that while the fullness of Christ’s Church “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, important elements of truth and holiness also exist in other churches and faith communities.

In a similar way, he said, valid and important elements of true love and holiness can also exist in a relationship that does not conform to the full vision of an ideal Catholic marriage.

English Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai also shared impressions from the Synod Hall, including the call for a special message for families being persecuted for their Christian faith Iraq. They spoke about Synod Fathers who live in countries where Catholics are a tiny minority and who say the Church has much to learn from the wisdom and experience of other religious traditions.

Cardinal Nichols also described the very open and relaxed atmosphere of the Synod and the importance of hearing married couples share details of their relationships, including the pivotal role that sex plays in the life of most married couples

“The Australian couple were quite explicit and developed in their thought and emphasis on the central role of sexuality and sexual intercourse in their marriage – now that’s not what we bishops talk about mostly! But to hear that as the opening contribution did open up an area which others followed and it was a recognition that it is often central to the wellbeing of a marriage.”

Cardinal Nichols pointed out it’s too early to draw any conclusions from these first sessions, yet it does seem clear that this first Synod of Francis’ pontificate is shaping up for a much more honest and down-to-earth discussion than most bishops have experienced here in the Vatican over recent decades. 


Keyser Soze said...

No one will enter the Presence of God in heaven with even a minute stain of sin on their souls. Purgatory exists to atone for those sins forgiven. Hell exists for unrepentant mortal sins. That is the ultimate reality.

And where do we turn for guidance in dealing with the ultimate reality, those four last things? The Church.

Perhaps this analogy, even though it's hackneyed, will make the point:

If my oncologist finds a deadly tumor that needs to be removed, but instead of insisting on surgery, reminds me that my kidneys, digestive and respiratory systems are all working well and that I have "elements of good health" in my body, he would be guilty of gross malpractice.

If he is afraid I will turn away from him for using terms like "cancer," "metastasis," or "potentially deadly,", then he might as well quit his practice, because he would be reduced to dishonesty.

If we have bishops and cardinals who lack the honesty, fortitude and courage to tell us the truth about sin, redemption, heaven and hell and prefer to sugarcoat it, then perhaps its time we stick cotton in our ears and consult the Church Fathers. Our Church seems to be getting so "open" and "relaxed" that soon no one will be able to distinguish between laity and ordained, Catholic and Protestant.

No thank you.

MR said...

@Keyser Soze,
I totally agree with you, but in the context of this Synod and Papacy I think this might be (relatively) good news. The discussions so far seem to be centered around changing language and tone, rather than changing doctrine and practices.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Tone is important and also communication which invites understanding and ooens the door to God's grace of conversion and change. We are all sinned not just some of us. We are all disordered not just some of us. We all experience concupiscence not just some of us.

Name calling turns people away. I can call you a racist and inflame your sensibilities or I can explain why racism foes against the two greatest commandments. The latter leaves the door open to conversion the former to a turn off .

JBS said...

If this really is the will of the Holy Ghost, then so be it. But if it is, then we must acknowledge that this new approach is contrary to the pastoral approach of JPII, who sought so hard to explain to everyone the moral teachings of the Church pertaining to the family. Will his various letters on sexuality and the family now be placed on some new of index of forbidden books?

Anonymous said...

I think I'm beginning to get the drift of this "more honest and down-to-earth discussion" by our appointed and sworn guardians of the faith. For instance, that any mention of the word "sin" is a turn-off for today's Catholics, much too negative. We must use less judgmental language, perhaps talk not about avoiding sin, but about "making better decisions".

JusadBellum said...

Father, the issue is... where in the heck have these people been living to complain that "the Church" is being mean to them? I've NEVER in over 40 years of going to Mass across the US and abroad heard a priest or deacon utter a single condemnation of the divorced and remarried and only 5 who ever preached overtly on the evil of contraception.

I've NEVER heard a homily specifically explain why homosexuality is sinful unless it was part of a litany of other sins.

So where is this mythical "mean" Church that is responsible for driving so many brothers and sisters away? Tell me what parish in the diocese regularly features harangues from the pulpit that I might go and experience for once in my life what a fire and brimstone homily sounds like.

The dioceses where we sugar coat or downplay any controversial topic, are not booming with packed pews. The orders who downplay controversial topics aren't experiencing a boom in vocations. So let someone affirm that it's 'harshness' of language (which is NEVER, EVER used from the pulpit) to blame for the empty pews? On what grounds?

Do we sugar coat the cross? The penalty paid for our sin? What are we to be grateful of God for if we do downplay the cost He paid for our salvation?

It's patently absurd to affirm that sugar coating anything serious is the winning tactic to make converts. When and where is this the case that we may all go and see?

Which bishop or cardinal can point to a successful praxis of sugar coating and using 'inclusive' nice language by which to win back faithful Catholics? Germany is in free fall. Much of Europe is the same. The Americas and the English speaking world are struggling too and in all areas it doesn't appear to be the case that there's been too much orthodoxy preached but too little.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Folks, we are still in the discussion phase of this and no consensus has been raised on the approach of the actual synod on the family in 2015.

When I listen to Pope Francis' homilies and exhorations these are filled with judgements about people's sins, about the devil and how he gains followers and so on and so on.

I have to agree though with JusadBellum about what people hear at Mass and in classes. We've been sugarcoating so much and we in the USA deny the devil and hell and so on and so on. I hear something completely different about these things from Pope Francis, it is all about the devil and calling people names who do this, that and the other, a form of shaming. He did it to the bishops this past Sunday, called seminarians monsters and nuns pickled peppered faces.

He preaches on sin, calls people to go to confession and goes himself publicly and calls everyone sinners.

That's the truth. How many hear this in their parishes?

I have to agree though with

JusadBellum said...

I agree with JBS. I just re-read Evangelium Vitae of Pope St. JP2. He was clear with what he meant... he defined his terms. He made the case from the scripture and philosophy. He wrote a defense of orthodox Catholic teaching. That's something a Catholic lay man can actually use to advance the cause of the Gospel. But an amorphous, vague, equivocal Papal or Synodal document full of subtly... that helps us not at all on the front lines.

And in point of fact, as Pope St.JP2 so readily knew, it is laity that stand on the front line against the culture of death. Long before the secular materialists come to shutter the Churches and frog march pastors to the gulags they will have burned through the laity.

Clergy can (and have) flee from their homelands when the open persecution comes. Happened in England under Elizabeth. Happened in France under the Republic. In Spain during the civil wars and in innumerable wars and persecutions since. But laity by and large are stuck to sink or swim where we live.

So either the clergy will provide us with arms and ammunition to wage this war against Principalities and Powers, the world, the flesh, and the devil, or you are abandoning us to them....

and then wondering why the pews are empty? How can we long endure without arms, ammunition, guidance and moral support? We're not Pelagians. We absolutely need God's grace and that means we need the clergy doing their job.

Gene said...

They will start by changing the language then, through the vague and amorphous term "pastoral practice," gradually follow our protestant brethren into a totally humanistic and progressivist theology.
For me, a former protestant pastor, this is one huge deja vu. Get ready for Fr. Fellatio coming to a Church near you. Enjoy!

JBS said...


Your's is an excellent question. We all know there is very little preaching on these subjects, and what preaching there is is usually quite subtle. Nor are there priests actively denying Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried or to homosexual couples, except in cases so rare as to attract national attention to the novelty. Therefore, I can only conclude that this is an effort to suppress JPII's prolific moral teachings on the family, since he is the only prominent example of such teaching.

dbonneville said...

Is there any point in Catholic history where we can see this type of approach working to attract sinners? In the early church, people had to wait years to get baptized, sometimes had years of penance for certain sins, and were barred from baptism if they worked in the theaters or in some cases were soldiers. Yet the Church grew. People had a sense of sin. How does lowering the bar of sin make people want to seek grace? It just seems to say more of the same: you are pretty much a good person and OK as you are. Join or don't join the Church, you will go to heaven anyway.

That seems to be what the world will take away from this. There seems to be a last hurrah of the VII generation to all this. When there are much less priests and much less people, a "traditional" people will likely remain as the remnant in this self-induced auto-destruction of the faith. God have mercy on all of us.

Anonymous said...

Hey y'all... there's an awful lot of "honest and down-to-earth discussion" about the sexual misbehavior of us married people... divorced people going on. Here are a couple of other things for which the discussion might get down to earth...I have read statistics (a BBC study, I think) that said that at any given time, about half of the Catholic clergymen are practicing celibacy...and that 80% to 90% of men....all men, including everybody masturbate. Some of the folks in high places might need to check their own eyes for planks.

Luke said...

dbonneville -

Those were my thoughts exactly. I could not imagine the Church of the Martyrs of the first Christian centuries saying any of this.

JusadBellum said...

Anonymous, if indeed 90% of men in general and clergy in particular commit masturbation, then so what? If they acknowledge that it is a sin and seek forgiveness and struggle against it.... they can become saints.

It's in denying that it's a problem and defending one's vice as a positive good that all hell, literally, breaks lose.

Give me a harlot who acknowledges her sin over any woman who self-righteously proclaims her virtue as a sex worker and I'll show you a humble woman seeking God.

There's a world of difference between those who quietly go to communion struggling secretly with their hidden vices and those who work for the Church, living in open, public scandalous situations, and practically beg to be challenged.

Sure, maybe half of all school teachers have contracepted. I'd be willing to bet few realize enough of Church teaching to know it's wrong and why (and where would they find out if they don't subscribe to orthodox Catholic media?). They won't hear a homily on the topic, they won't read an editorial in the diocesan newspaper. They won't run into any clear and authoritative defense of Humanae Vitae in K-12 sex ed books... so how could they know? But neither do they flaunt it overtly like someone who is gay does when they declare they have 'married' their live in partner.

The tax collector who apologizes is forgiven. The Pharisee who insists he's justified is condemned. In our day and age it's not the conservative and orthodox who go around declaring themselves utterly incapable of sin!

Vox Cantoris said...

We take no credit Father for Tom Rosica, CSB. He is American born and raised in Rochester. How about a good hockey trade?

JBS said...


I assume by "celibacy", which is the state of being unmarried for the sake of the Kingdom, you mean "chastity", although perhaps some priests are secretly in invalid civil marriages. Violations of chastity are mortal sins, whether committed by laymen, religious or clergymen.

Gerbert said...

I think many people have an uneasiness about how pope Francis has been going about some issues, one reason is he is doing things in a different way than we have seen by his two predecessors, secondly is many of us have our guard up and anything that might be perceived as Vat II progressivism sends us into fits. We are in a time in history unlike any other, when we look at the history of the Church things are not as rosy as we sometime think they where. Yes the Church was vary hard on sexual improprieties, and divorce, but at the same time you could not be a member of the Church if you were a government official or social influential person, teachers, professional and affluent people were excluded, this was for self preservation at that time, this type of actions by the Church today would be scorned by society. So many things the Church does are a response to the times and situations she is facing. We are in a post Christian society, we have gone from the majority to minority, and our teachings are deemed strange, out dated, and irrelevant. So while many of us see the ultimate sense the Churches teachings make for the salvation of humanity, others just don't, why I don't know! I do know that this is the Church established by Christ Himself, the Spirit has guided the Church for 2000 years and is not going to stop now. Francis was elected for a reason, maybe a reason all of us can't see right now (or maybe we will not allow ourselves). I will not be cynical, which is easy to do, I hope and pray the Holy Father is being guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus entrusted the care of His flock to Peter, and said he would be with him until the end of age. Francis has the most difficult job on the face of the earth, many would be crushed by the shear burden of it all, pray for him, for the Church, pray for all of us. Give it time, be positive, not cynical, keep our faith strong and be a true example of love hope and charity!

MR said...

I can't believe I am the one to say this, but people need to calm down about this. This was one suggestion, made by possibly one participant that happened to get picked up by the media, not an infallible declaration by the Pope.

Card Nichols (who's fairly liberal btw) had this to say:


The bishops also spoke of the need to use “the law of graduality” when dealing with people struggling to live a Christian life. Cardinal Nichols later noted in the briefing that St. John Paul II invoked the same concept in the 1982 synod, but made a clear distinction: “There is a law of graduality, but not a graduality to the law.” That may end up being the motto of this Extraordinary Synod.

Aloysius Gonzaga said...

When you and your family are being threatened with having your head chopped off, what good is it to have some "statements" from some far-away clerics?

George said...

"Violations of chastity are mortal sins, whether committed by laymen, religious or clergymen."
Amen. I don't know where Anonymous got his stats but I can say that if a person prays (especially the Rosary), goes to confession regularly,attends Mass every week and if need be, asks others for intercessory prayer, then it is possible to avoid Mortal sin. You MUST avoid all occasions of sin.

rcg said...

Where did Anon get his statistics? Pulled out of thin hair.

Are we arguing that it is ok to sin if enough people do it? People want to soften language to give them a little more time with their sin, so they can quit when they are already. After all, we can just quit anytime we want, right?

Anonymous said...

"Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”
I wonder which of the apostles mentioned to Jesus that "Eat My Body and Drink My Blood" are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.

JBS said...

It appears that Jesus has become something of an embarrassment to some leaders in His Church. But Our Lord is a "take it or leave it" kind of god.

Gene said...

"Living in Sin…" Isn't that in Mississippi close to Tupelo…? I mean, it can't have anything to do with the Church…sort of like that word "shame" I hear once in a while. I believe that is a town in Alabama, close to Montgomery.

Marc said...

Gene, are you trying to bring me out of retirement by referencing my homelands?